Society Launches Spring Series

Community Corn Shucking in Orange County, 1937. Photo by Don Matheson, courtesy of the Orange County Extension Service.


The Chapel Hill Historical Society kicks off its spring 2021 virtual Zoom program series on Jan. 24 with Peter Sandbeck’s “Orange County’s Agricultural Revolution: 1900-1970 – The Transformation of Rural Life Shown Through Historic Photographs.”

Sandbeck, Orange County’s cultural resources coordinator, will discuss this remarkable period of change in Orange County’s agricultural history.

Sandbeck notes that farming and farm life were completely transformed in the decades from 1900 to 1970. Antiquated and inefficient practices were replaced through the implementation of scientific farming practices and marketing strategies, thanks to the efforts of newly-established state and federal farm programs. Social and technological changes helped bring an end to the destructive tenant and sharecropping systems.

This period of rapid change in Orange County’s rural heritage was documented by remarkable photographs taken by the state and federal agency staffers who played such active roles in educating farmers plagued by eroded land, depleted soil, poor transportation, racial inequity and their own reluctance to abandon their outdated ways of farming.

The remaining Zoom programs planned for the spring are listed below. Each program starts at 3 p.m.; links for the programs will be available on the Chapel Hill Historical Society’s website a few days before each program. YouTube recordings of the programs will be posted to the website a few days after each presentation.

  • Feb 21 — Yésah: Journeys of the Occaneechi. Tanya Day (manager) and Courtney Soling Smith (program coordinator), Orange County Historical Museum, will give a virtual tour of the museum’s new exhibit, “Yésah: Journeys of the Occaneechi.” The Yésah formed numerous bands, yet they were one people, united by common ancestors and customs. This behind-the-scenes guide will provide insights into the exhibit and highlight some of the amazing artifacts that are on display.
  • March 14 — Evangeline Grant Briley – WUNC Pioneer. Katherine Charron, associate professor, department of history at NC State, will look at the career and contributions of Evangeline Grant Briley, the first woman and the first Black producer and host for North Carolina public television, including the award-winning “Thursday’s Child”and “Heritage of Hope.”
  • April 25 — “UNC A to Z.”Cecelia Moore and Nicholas Graham present their new book, “UNC A to Z”. Packed with information, “UNC A to Z” offers a broad view of the 200-plus year history of the school, presented in an alphabetical format for optimized findability. Over 350 entries detailing the history of UNC Chapel Hill, from the history of the Old Well and the Yackety Yack to the Speaker Ban and the origins of every building name on campus. It covers athletics, academics and important people and events attached to the school.
  • May 16 — Midway: A Virtual tour of the Black Financial District of Chapel Hill. Danita Mason-Hogans, project manager for the Center for Documentaries Studies and local historian, will provide a virtual tour of the Black financial district called Midway. Often called “the Black Wall Street of Chapel Hill”, the tour will share stories and history about this business and social hub for Black families in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. During the era of segregation, local people shopped, dined and hosted travelling artists in this vivacious part of the Black community.  

This is the one of an occasional series of articles from the Chapel Hill Historical Society on the history of our community, our people, places and past events, from our founding up to the present.

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